It’s a random Wednesday after school and somehow there is no speed and agility training, no basketball practice or game, no Hebrew school. No nothing. It’s a blissful afternoon without any schlepping and I take a deep contented breath, happy to hole up home with my three boys on this cold winter day.

After the requisite whines of protests, their homework is complete. It’s 4:15 p.m. and we are done. The rest of the evening is ours to enjoy.

“What do you want to do, mommy?” My youngest asks.

Well, I really want to work on an essay, flip the laundry and figure out dinner while talking on the phone to my friend, but I know none of those are the right answer.

“Um, want to play cards?” I suggest.

“Yeah!” He plops himself down and my older boys join in for a game of Uno. It takes about seven minutes before the fighting begins.

“Hey, you can’t change your card!” My oldest son accuses my middle.

“It didn’t hit the pile yet!” My middle guy defends. My youngest gets into it and soon his face crumples on the verge of tears.

Somehow the game has changed from Uno to War. “Come on guys,” I referee. “Let’s just play.”

My middle son huffs and flings his cards onto the table. “Forget it!” My oldest dumps his cards as well and we all look at each other for a tense moment.

It’s 4:27.

“Who wants to invite some friends over?” I suggest and immediately three hands shoot up like they are in school. Nice. Yes, please send some children over to save us.

So I make the calls and within a half an hour I have four more boys stomping through my house. It is bliss.

It used to be that having even one child over was more work for me, but now that my boys are 7, 9 and 12, it’s the complete opposite. They no longer need me to closely supervise or orchestrate games. I no longer have that kid who shadows me, wanting more of my attention than my child’s. We have outgrown biting and climbing on furniture (usually). Now the boys play basketball and carpet hockey in the basement. They have Smashbrother and Madden tournaments and play hide and seek. I am relegated to cutting apple slices, trying not to burn cookies and the occasional check in to make sure no one is crying or engaging in any potential dangerous activity.

I’ve learned, along with many of my friends, that a day with just my kids is guaranteed to be full of “I’m borrrred!” whining, “He’s annoying me!” fighting and me pulling out my hair, but throwing another kid into the mix automatically diffuses some of the tension. Add a few more kids, and it gets smoother still.

There is, of course, a line that when crossed leads to a giant pile with a poor kid at the bottom, or 12 small but mighty muddy feet charging up and down your stairs. And obviously, all situations are different. Certain kids are better one on one and some kids just don’t mix well with others.

But so far in my experience, it’s generally been the more the merrier – for the kids and for the mom.

Alisa Schindler is a stay-at-home mom of three boys, and a freelance writer. She chronicles the sweet and bittersweet moments of life in the suburbs on her blog

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